Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - Selections

I. Streams of Merit

51 (1) Streams of Merit (1)
“Bhikkhus, there are these four streams of merit, streams of the wholesome, nutriments of happiness—heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven—that lead to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness. What four?
    “(1) When a bhikkhu enters and dwells in a measureless concentration of mind while using a robe [that one has given him], one acquires a measureless stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, a nutriment of happiness … that leads … to one’s welfare and happiness. (2) When a bhikkhu enters and dwells in a measureless concentration of mind while using almsfood [that one has given him], one acquires a measureless stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, a nutriment of happiness … that leads … to one’s welfare and happiness. [55] (3) When a bhikkhu enters and dwells in a measureless concentration of mind while using a lodging [that one has given him], one acquires a measureless stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, a nutriment of happiness … that leads … to one’s welfare and happiness. (4) When a bhikkhu enters and dwells in a measureless concentration of mind while using medicines and provisions for the sick [that one has given him], one acquires a measureless stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, a nutriment of happiness … that leads to one’s welfare and happiness.
    “These are the four streams of merit, streams of the wholesome, nutriments of happiness—heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven—that lead to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness.
    “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple possesses these four streams of merit, streams of the wholesome, it is not easy to measure his merit thus: ‘Just so much is his stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, nutriment of happiness … that leads to … one’s welfare and happiness’; rather, it is reckoned simply as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of merit.
    “Bhikkhus, just as it is not easy to measure the water in the great ocean thus: ‘There are so many gallons of water,’ or ‘There are so many hundreds of gallons of water,’ or ‘There are so many thousands of gallons of water,’ or ‘There are so many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water,’ but rather it is reckoned simply as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of water; so too, when a noble disciple possesses these four streams of merit … it is reckoned simply as an incalculable, immeasurable, great mass of merit.”

Just as the many rivers used by the hosts of people,
flowing downstream, reach the ocean,
the great mass of water, the boundless sea,
the fearsome receptacle of heaps of gems; [56]
so the streams of merit reach the wise man
who is a giver of food, drink, and cloth;
[they reach] the donor of beds, seats, and covers
like rivers carrying their waters to the sea.

52 (2) Streams of Merit (2)
“Bhikkhus, there are these four streams of merit, streams of the wholesome, nutriments of happiness—heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven—that lead to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness. What four?
    (1) “Here, a noble disciple possesses unwavering confidence in the Buddha thus: ‘The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’ This is the first stream of merit…
    (2) “Again, a noble disciple possesses unwavering confidence in the Dhamma thus: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.’ This is the second stream of merit…
    (3) “Again, a noble disciple possesses unwavering confidence in the Saṅgha thus: ‘The Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples is practicing the good way, practicing the straight way, practicing the true way, practicing the proper way; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals—this Saṅgha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.’ This is the third stream of merit…
    (4) “Again, a noble disciple possesses the virtuous behavior loved by the noble ones, unbroken, flawless, unblemished, [57] unblotched, freeing, praised by the wise, ungrasped, leading to concentration. This is the fourth stream of merit…
    “These are the four streams of merit, streams of the wholesome, nutriments of happiness—heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven—that lead to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness.”

When one has faith in the Tathāgata,
unshakable and well established,
and virtuous behavior that is good,
loved by the noble ones and praised;
when one has confidence in the Saṅgha
and one’s view has been straightened out,
they say that one is not poor,
that one’s life is not lived in vain.

Therefore an intelligent person,
remembering the Buddhas’ teaching,
should be intent on faith and virtuous behavior,
confidence and vision of the Dhamma.

53 (3) Living Together (1)
On one occasion the Blessed One was traveling along the highway between Madhurā and Verañjā. A number of male and female householders were also traveling along the same highway. Then the Blessed One left the highway and sat down at the foot of a tree. The male and female householders saw the Blessed One sitting there and approached him, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to them:
    “Householders, there are these four ways of living together. What four? A wretch lives together with a wretch; a wretch lives together with a female deva; a deva lives together with a wretch; a deva lives together with a female deva.
    (1) “And how, householders, does a wretch live together with a wretch? [58] Here, the husband is one who destroys life, takes what is not given, engages in sexual misconduct, speaks falsely, and indulges in liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness; he is immoral, of bad character; he dwells at home with a heart obsessed by the stain of miserliness; he insults and reviles ascetics and brahmins. And his wife is also one who destroys life … she insults and reviles ascetics and brahmins. It is in such a way that a wretch lives together with a wretch.
    (2) “And how does a wretch live together with a female deva? Here, the husband is one who destroys life … he insults and reviles ascetics and brahmins. But his wife is one who abstains from the destruction of life, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from false speech, and from liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness; she is virtuous, of good character; she dwells at home with a heart free from the stain of miserliness; she does not insult or revile ascetics and brahmins. It is in such a way that a wretch lives together with a female deva.
    (3) “And how does a deva live together with a wretch? Here, the husband is one who abstains from the destruction of life … he does not insult or revile ascetics and brahmins. But his wife is one who destroys life … she insults and reviles ascetics and brahmins. It is in such a way that a deva lives together with a wretch.
    (4) “And how does a deva live together with a female deva? Here, the husband is one who abstains from the destruction of life … he does not insult or revile ascetics and brahmins. And his wife is also one who abstains from the destruction of life … she does not insult or revile ascetics and brahmins. It is in such a way that a deva lives together with a female deva. [59]
“These are the four ways of living together.”

When both are immoral,
miserly and abusive,
husband and wife
live together as wretches.

The husband is immoral,
miserly and abusive,
but his wife is virtuous,
charitable, generous.
She is a female deva living
with a wretched husband.

The husband is virtuous,
charitable, generous,
but his wife is immoral,
miserly and abusive.
She is a wretch living
with a deva husband.

Both husband and wife are endowed with faith,
charitable and self-controlled,
living their lives righteously,
addressing each other with pleasant words.

Then many benefits accrue to them
and they dwell at ease.
Their enemies are saddened
when both are the same in virtue.

Having practiced the Dhamma here,
the same in virtuous behavior and observances,
delighting [after death] in a deva world,
they rejoice, enjoying sensual pleasures.

54 (4) Living Together (2)
“Bhikkhus, there are these four ways of living together. What four? A wretch lives together with a wretch; a wretch lives together with a female deva; a deva lives together with a wretch; a deva lives together with a female deva.
    [The rest, including the verses, is identical with 4:53 but addressed to the bhikkhus.] [60‒61]

55 (5) The Same in Living (1)
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Bhaggas in Suṃsumāragira in the deer park at Bhesakalā Grove. Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, and went to the residence of the householder Nakulapitā, where he sat down in the prepared seat. Then the householder Nakulapitā and the housewife Nakulamātā approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side. The householder Nakulapitā then said to the Blessed One:
    “Bhante, since I was young, when the young girl Nakulamātā was given to me in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against her even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”
    The housewife Nakulamātā in turn said to the Blessed One: “Bhante, since I was a young girl given to the young householder Nakulapitā in marriage, I do not recall ever transgressing against him even in thought, much less by deed. We wish, bhante, to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.” [62]
    “Householders, if both husband and wife wish to see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives, they should have the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom. Then they will see one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.”

Both husband and wife are endowed with faith,
charitable and self-controlled,
living their lives righteously,
addressing each other with pleasant words,

Then many benefits accrue to them
and they dwell at ease.
Their enemies are saddened
when both are the same in virtue.

Having practiced the Dhamma here,
the same in virtuous behavior and observances,
delighting [after death] in a deva world,
they rejoice, enjoying sensual pleasures.

56 (6) The Same in Living (2)
“Bhikkhus, if both husband and wife wish to behold one another not only in this present life but also in future lives, they should have the same faith, the same virtuous behavior, the same generosity, and the same wisdom. Then they will behold one another not only in this present life but also in future lives.
​    [The verses are identical with those of 4:55.]

57 (7) Suppavāsā
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Koliyans near the Koliyan town named Sajjanela. Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, and went to the residence of the Koliyan daughter Suppavāsā, where he sat down in the prepared seat. Then the Koliyan daughter Suppavāsā, [63] with her own hand, served and satisfied the Blessed One with various kinds of delicious food. When the Blessed One had finished eating and had put away his bowl, the Koliyan daughter Suppavāsā sat down to one side. The Blessed One then said to her:
    “Suppavāsā, a female noble disciple who gives food gives the recipients four things. What four? She gives life, beauty, happiness, and strength. (1) Having given life, she partakes of life, whether celestial or human. (2) Having given beauty, she partakes of beauty, whether celestial or human. (3) Having given happiness, she partakes of happiness, whether celestial or human. (4) Having given strength, she partakes of strength, whether celestial or human. Suppavāsā, a female noble disciple who gives food gives the recipients these four things.”

When one gives well-prepared food,
pure, delicious, and flavorful,
to the upright ones who are
exalted and of excellent conduct,
that offering, which links merit with merit,
is praised as very fruitful
by the world-knowers.

Those recollecting such generosity
dwell in the world inspired by joy.
Having removed the stain of miserliness and its root,
blameless, they go to the heavenly abode.

58 (8) Sudatta
Then the householder Anāthapiṇḍika approached the Blessed One … The Blessed One then said to him:
    “Householder, a noble disciple who gives food gives the recipients four things. What four? [64] He gives life, beauty, happiness, and strength. (1) Having given life, he partakes of life, whether celestial or human. (2) Having given beauty, he partakes of beauty, whether celestial or human. (3) Having given happiness, he partakes of happiness, whether celestial or human. (4) Having given strength, he partakes of strength, whether celestial or human. Householder, a noble disciple who gives food gives the recipients these four things.”

One who respectfully gives timely food
to those self-controlled ones who eat what others give,
provides them with four things:
life, beauty, happiness, and strength.

The man who gives life and beauty,
who gives happiness and strength,
will obtain long life and fame
wherever he is reborn.

59 (9) Food
“Bhikkhus, when a donor gives food, he gives the recipients four things. What four? … [as in preceding sutta] … Bhikkhus, when a donor gives food, he gives the recipients these four things.”
    [The verses are identical with those of 4:58.] [65]

60 (10) The Layperson’s Proper Practice
Then the householder Anāthapiṇḍika approached the Blessed One … The Blessed One said to him:
    “Householder, a noble disciple who possesses four qualities is practicing the way proper to the layperson, a way that brings the attainment of fame and leads to heaven. What four?
    “Here, householder, a noble disciple serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with robes; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with almsfood; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with lodgings; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with medicines and provisions for the sick.
    “Householder, a noble disciple who possesses these four qualities is practicing the way proper to the layperson, a way that brings the attainment of fame and leads to heaven.”

When the wise practice the way
proper for the layperson, they serve
the virtuous monks of upright conduct
with robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines:

for them both by day and night
merit always increases;
having done excellent deeds,
they pass on to a heavenly state.
 

How to cite this document:
© Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2012)

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